From Piracy to Swine Flu

There is never a dull moment in the maritime news these days. For the last few weeks, I, and much of the world, have been transfixed by the on-going piracy saga occurring in the waters near Somalia. What a difference a few days can make! Recent news reports have increasingly concentrated on the outbreak of swine flu that seems to be sweeping the globe. Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the swine flu would likely become a pandemic, with a current alert level at Phase 5 out of six. According to an article in the New York Times today, this is the highest alert level ever declared since the creation of the warning system in 2005.

What does this mean for the cruise industry? At the beginning of the season, reports pointed to a slight increase in cruising, even with the global economic crisis at hand. Unfortunately, the swine flu could swing the pendulum the other way. Already, California has declared a state of emergency, and many of the big cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Carnival, have cancelled all ports of call in Mexico until at least May 4.

This is not the first time an alarm has been raised regarding influenza on cruise ships. However, this time it is not just about passing the virus among ship passengers, but about the global spread of a possible pandemic. Cancelling ports of call in Mexico may hurt both the tourism industry of Mexico and the cruise lines themselves, but I have to admit I am more supportive of too much caution versus too little.

I recently sent out a survey asking how the recent increased piracy may or may not affect readers’ travel plans. Now I find myself wondering how many people would avoid a cruise due to the spread of swine flu. What about you? How does the swine flu affect your attitude toward cruising this year? Leave a comment here, and I can address reactions in a future blog entry.

In the meantime, PLEASE practice simple health safety strategies: wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and do not travel if you are ill. I wish you all good health and safe travels!

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